Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
Residents who live near 36 New Jersey Avenue (aka 102 Mt. Tabor Ave) received a certified letter from a local law firm announcing that the owner of the property wants to totally demolish the premises. The matter will be discussed at a public hearing of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) of Neptune Township on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7:00 pm in the Committee Meeting Room in the Neptune Township Municipal Complex.
We live near there and we were surprised by this because that corner property always seemed special in that setting, even though the structure was basically pretty ordinary. The owners had maintained lovely gardens, and it seemed so perfect and inviting for two people. We would walk by and admire the simplicity of the property with its large side yard.
The property enhances the flavor of that neighborhood by its spare clean lines and its airy openness at that corner. It seems to be an integral part of the streetscape there and it goes to the zoning goal of space, light and air in our neighborhoods.
The home is diagonally across from Firemen’s Park, at the corner with Mt. Tabor Way. That area, with its windy streets, seems like a New England village. We once chose the house for our Ocean Grove Jewel contest.
The building was built in 1925. The property is only 495 square feet yet it evidently has 3 bedrooms according to Internet listings. That would seem to define coziness. It sold for $115,000 in 2001, but it is now estimated by Zillow to be worth $330,000.
The letter offers no reason for the demolition petition.
If it is replaced by a bigger house, it would change the look of the neighborhood. A neighbor tells us that there used to be another house on the property, but no information on that is available.
So what will happen at the HPC hearing? The applicant will have to show that this demolition is appropriate under the provisions of Neptune Ordinance #07-46. That ordinance was established to “preserve the historic character of Ocean Grove and the designation of Ocean Grove as a National Historic District.”
The applicant may bring experts to testify that this building has no historic significance. We saw that in action when the Whitfield demo hearing was held Maybe the applicant will claim that the building is structurally unsound.
This building would be characterized not as a “key historic structure” built between 1869 through 1910, but rather as a “contributing structure” (1910-1941.) Such contributing structures may be demolished, unless the demo would be “detrimental to the historic designation.”
The applicant must explain the “rationale or reasoning” for requesting total demolition. Clearly, this building seems to have no historic significance, but the ordinance also considers “the impact of the demolition on the Historic District compared with the existing condition of the property.”
It also discusses “the effect the demolition would have upon the public’s interest in architectural, historic and aesthetic matters including the maintenance of an existing streetscape….that the structure may be associated with.”
It seems that there are loopholes that could be applied in either direction. The applicant will presumably be represented by a lawyer, and the historic and public interest by the HPC.
This hearing should be interesting, and if the public goes to it, we could all learn about how historic preservation works in Ocean Grove. It would also send a message that we Grovers do care about the process, even if this building may very well be demolished after all is said and done.